Photo By: Town Crier file photo
Thanks to Los Altos residents Paul and Ellen Gonella, local seniors can focus on friends, family, fun and fellowship.
The Gonellas are dedicated to supporting seniors and have engaged others in their quest to help older adults age in place. Their mission has become an integral part of the their lives.
“(I felt) that, after doing many things for Los Altos kids over the years, … it was time to turn my attention to the local senior population,” wrote Ellen in an email to the Town Crier. “The youth in Los Altos still have many things for them, but the seniors, not so much. … I’m always thinking about senior issues locally.”
The Gonellas are part of Los Altos Legacies, a nonprofit, bequest-driven group that partners with the Los Altos Community Foundation to enhance the quality of life for seniors in the area.
“I think the organization does a very good job for being a small, volunteer-staffed senior organization,” said Ellen, who serves as Los Altos Legacies’ secretary and treasurer. “We all earnestly want the best for Los Altos and Los Altos Hills seniors. To the extent we can financially, we come through when asked.”
The Gonellas enlist volunteers to offer “significant value to seniors and the community overall by providing ongoing influence, advocacy and active guidance to senior-oriented initiatives,” according to the group’s website.
“Seniors are a growing group,” Paul said. “The more people who help, the better.”
Avenidas in the Village
Los Altos Legacies has worked for the past few years to establish a Los Altos branch of Avenidas Village, a private, nonprofit Palo Alto-based concierge service for adults 50 and older who want to stay in their homes as they age. Members pay an annual fee for access to staff and vetted services.
Aging in place is growing in popularity, Ellen said.
“About 90 percent of all seniors surveyed locally want to age in their homes,” she said.
Bringing Avenidas Village to the area seemed the perfect solution.
The Legacies Foundation, the Community Foundation and the town of Los Altos Hills pooled funds to sponsor an Avenidas representative to educate the local senior community about Avenidas’ services and encourage them to join.
Los Altos Legacies paid Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents’ membership fees for Avenidas Village and the Los Altos Senior Center. However, after a year, funding dried up and few seniors had signed on.
Local residents may still sign up as members of Avenidas Village, but without the benefits of a dedicated Avenidas representative or free membership.
Los Altos Legacies may no longer provide funding, Ellen said, but the group continues to support the concept. She said they are “proud of their investment” in bringing the organization to the community’s attention.
Avenidas Village boasts 350 members on the mid-Peninsula. Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents represent the third-largest contingent, after Palo Alto and Stanford.
Los Altos Legacies continues to pursue a variety of smaller-scale philanthropic projects.
The organization subsidizes ongoing social events for seniors, including lunches, barbecues, entertainment and a December holiday party.
Volunteers purchase supplies for the Senior Center, including materials for the “Monkey Ladies,” a group of women who meet weekly to make sock monkeys for sick children at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
The group partners with the Rotary Club of Los Altos to sponsor Partners for Elder Generations, which matches older adults with volunteering opportunities.
Los Altos Legacies also hosts the annual “Encore!” event, an interactive seminar designed to encourage seniors to get involved in the community.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.lalegacies.org.